Look after your best friend – Get pet insurance!

Let’s face it… watching Crufts has made all of us want a doggie best friend, hasn’t it? Though we might struggle to get ours as… neat and well groomed as those on display.

Whether it’s a toy poodle, a bulldog or a shiba inu – they are not cheap friends to keep. If you ask any pet owner the biggest drawback of owning an animal companion – it would be the cost of the insurance. I’m looking at you, Pig!

How complicated can pet insurance be?

Very! There are four different types of pet insurance… maximum benefit, lifetime, accident-only and time limited. If you opt for lifetime cover, it promises a maximum sum of money that you can claim every year, whereas some other policies can penalise you if you claim multiple times throughout the year for the same reason.

Maximum-benefit policies will only pay out a certain amount for the same condition, and after this, the same illness will not be covered.

Time-limited policies will pay out for an illness or injury for the specified period, after which that condition will no longer be covered.

Accident-only policies, as the name suggests, pay out only if your pet has an accident and requires veterinary care. They do not cover chronic conditions.

 

So, how many dogs in Britain are insured?

Out of the estimated 9m pet dogs in Britain, only about 2.4m are insured, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

How much does pet insurance cost?

It depends on your dog’s breed, age and gender — as well as the level of cover you choose. Policies vary considerably: for example, some will even cover the cost of having to cancel your holiday if your pet falls ill and requires treatment.

Smaller breeds and non-pedigree dogs tend to be cheaper to insure, as they are less prone to genetic disorders than pure breeds. Owners living in towns and cities also tend to pay higher premiums than people in the countryside because vets’ charges are typically higher in urban areas.

Predictably, premiums tend to rise with the age of your dog — and some insurers have age limits. A survey of 277 dog policies by Gocompare found that the minimum acceptance age for a dog is five weeks, with the oldest ranging from 7 to 15 years.

The amounts charged vary hugely. Insuring a male beagle puppy in Nottingham, for example, costs £13 a month with HelpuCover’s “classic” lifetime policy, which will pay out up to £4,000 a year towards vet fees, with a maximum of £1,000 for each condition. For a seven-year-old male beagle in Nottingham, the same cover would cost £25.58 a month.

Shop around for the best policy using sites such as gocompare.com and comparethemarket.com.

Do I really need cover?

Many owners choose not to insure their pets, particularly as the cost is rising. Premiums are expected to increase by as much as 50% by 2019, according to a study by the market research company Key Note, published in Money last November. This is partly down to the government’s decision to increase the premium tax on pet cover from 6% to 9.5%. The ABI said this added an estimated £10 a year to the average policy.

Like car insurance, pet policies have an excess amount written in. Check the terms of your policy as the excesses can apply in different ways.

However, as pet insurers regularly like to point out, there is no NHS for your dog. Veterinary bills can easily run into five figures in the event of a serious accident or illness.

It typically costs £350 to treat a wounded cat, or £875 if it requires aid following a road accident, according to the ABI. For dogs, arthritis treatment usually costs £368 per treatment and a damaged knee ligament would set you back £1,200.

The most common pet claims — not only for dogs but all pets — are for skin problems, wounds, arthritis and gastrointestinal issues, the ABI said. Treating your tortoise for a digestive disorder, for example, could cost about £560.

Beware exclusions

Always check the small print of your policy for any conditions that are excluded. Typically, pre-existing illnesses or injuries are exempt. Preventive action, such as vaccination, castration and worm and flea treatments, may also not be covered, as is anything to do with pregnancy or giving birth.

What are the alternatives?

If you think pet insurance is a rip-off, you could “self-insure” by setting aside savings for any future veterinary costs, as many people do for their home contents insurance.

If a high bill for a procedure or treatment suddenly arises, you can take out a specialist loan. For example, CarefreeCredit offers loans for medical treatment for uninsured pets — some even have 0% interest. More than 700 veterinary practices have signed up with the company and pay a £10 monthly fee to CarefreeCredit, plus a percentage of the value of each loan.

Most vets who have signed up then allow you to take out an interest-free loan from the company over 12 months. If you want to spread the repayments over 24 months, interest is charged at about 9.9% although rates between veterinary surgeries.

When it comes to it, most of us would pay anything to assure our pet’s safety and wellbeing. Pet insurance makes sense – although you losing out on a bit of cash each month or year, depending on your policy, the expensive cost of surgery or repeat prescription medication for a long term illness can be a big amount to part with in one go.

Do you have any questions about pet insurance? Get in touch!

– Bronny

bronwin@askbronny.com